Returning to Cuba in 2015

Tonisha Baetiong is ecstatic.

In April, the junior nursing student is going to Cuba as part of a UDM-sponsored trip.

“People just can’t travel to Cuba (on their own), so this is a chance to see Cuba,” she said. “I also am very passionate about Spanish and I am excited to put my skills to work.”

Baetiong is enrolled in the Health Care Spanish class, which focuses on vocabulary related to health care.

During the trip, students will be exploring health-care settings, so Baetiong hopes to be able to use her skills.

For many years, U.S. residents were not permitted to travel directly to Cuba from the United States.

President Obama loosened those restrictions in 2011, allowing educational trips to the country. In 2012, the University of Detroit Mercy traveled to Cuba with students from a variety of educational backgrounds.

The trip was a hit.

Junior biology major Sara Thomas went last year and was eager to speak about her trip.

“I wanted to go to Cuba to be able to use Spanish and visit a misunderstood country,” she said. “I learned all about the culture, how they spend their free time and what programs they have for the elderly, children, those in poverty and even the LGBT community.”

Thomas said the country was beautiful.

“It was awesome to walk around talking to people and having them welcome us with open arms,” she said. “We got to dance and listen to their music, which was playing on almost every corner. We also got to visit museums. I would definitely recommend the trip.

“It gets you outside of the mindset of believing everything the news tells you and lets you make opinions of your own. … I would go back in a heartbeat,” said Thomas.

The itinerary for the trip this year will include Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, social and health care sites, organic farms that encourage urban farming, a Cuba Literacy Center (Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world), two schools and several other historical sites.

Laura Wasner directs study-abroad trips for the College of Liberal Arts and Education.

She said that the trip will help students understand the Cuban economy, community development and the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, as well as to meet the people, learn the history and the culture.

She encourages students to look into the trip.

“Students have two major issues with trips like these,” she noted. “The first issue is time. A lot of students think they aren’t going to graduate on time if they go or can’t miss a spring break, but there are many options for students.”

The second issue, she said, is money.

“There are resources through financial aid and fundraising,” she said. “A student paid almost entirely for the trip through fundraising one year.”

Part of UDM’s strategic plan is to expand global awareness and perspectives.

Increasing awareness about current internationally based educational programs that are consistent with the university mission and enhance and create opportunities is part of this goal.

In fact, five UDM graduates are now working in China after attending the China study abroad trip last year.

The trip to Cuba is open to all students, but they must enroll in at least the one-credit class to go.

Upon returning, students will do a project and paper about their experiences.

Student Donita Burke wrote this in her evaluation paper about Cuba: “The most memorable part of the program was meeting the people of Cuba. I feel that the Cubans were very friendly, respectful, grateful, and welcoming of us, despite our countries’ history of relations in the past 50 years. … We witnessed the joys of everyday life: people singing, dancing, painting, drawing, sculpting, etc.”


Cuba meeting Oct. 16

Interested in going to Cuba?

An informational meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 16, at 12:35 p.m. during dead hour. It will be in Reno Hall 026.

A second meeting date will be announced later in October.